May 3, 2009
The Sedgwick County Sheriff is pressing for a new jail facility. The sheriff says he's been forced to send inmates to other counties because so many prisoners are jammed into the jail. Sheriff Bob Hinshaw says he wants the new facility to be able to house minimum-to-medium security inmates who don't need to be in the maximum security jail downtown.
At the current rate, Sedgwick County taxpayers are paying over $4-million dollars a year to house inmates in other counties simply because there's no room for them. That causes lots of problems, according to the sheriff.
"If we want to have a jail as part of our criminal justice system where we lock everybody up, we can do that," Hinshaw said Monday. "But it's going to be very expensive."
Programs are in place to help the people who want to be helped, Hiunshaw says, but our facilities are inadequate. That forces him to ship hundreds of inmates to other counties on a daily basis. Not only does it cost millions, it doesn't allow those inmates access to the treatment programs they need to keep from re-offending once they are released.
"Those who want to turn their lives around, we need to have programs in place for that," said Hinshaw. "The only way we can do that is if we're handling all the inmates rather than shipping them out of county."
As of today, 58 Sedgwick County inmates are housed in the Butler County Jail. 51 are in Sumner County. Meade County has 34 prisoners, while Ottowa County has 28. Stanton County, near the Colorado border, currently houses 17 Sedgwick County Jail inmates.
In total, 237 inmates are not even housed in the county where they face charges. That equals more than 16% of all the prisoners Hinshaw is responsible for. However, some say it's cheaper for the taxpayers to do it this way.
"The average cost to have a Sedgwick County prisoner out of county is around $38.00 per day," said Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn. "Every prisoner in the Sedgwick County Jail costs $66.00 per day. If you're looking only at cost, it's actually cheaper to have them out of county than in county."
But Hinshaw says it's not effective in getting offenders out of the system and keeping them from showing back up.
"That sounds reasonable, but if we're looking at having an effective criminal justice system, we need to have those people here," Hinshaw claimed.
Hinshaw is proposing building a complete new satellite facility in Sedgwick County that could handle as many as 1,500 minimum-to medium security inmates. Treatment programs would be readily available for them, as well as classrooms and a visitation area.
Both the commissioner and the sheriff do agree on one thing, however. The maximum security Sedgwick County Detention Facility is expensive to operate and it houses a lot of prisoners who are in for relatively minor crimes. That, they say, is a problem.
Last October, Sedgwick County peaked at it's highest inmate count ever when there were a total of 1736 inmates. 437 of them had to be housed in other counties.